1. Is Building Along Busy Corridors Unhealthy?

    Dense Development: Is Building Along Busy Corridors Unhealthy?


    Aug 23, 2017

    By Rafferty Baker

    Read More: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/britis...tion-1.4258193

    Quote:
    The City of Vancouver has an ambitious plan to add 18,100 units of housing to the Cambie corridor in the next 25 years, many of them along Cambie Street itself. But experts warn the impact from traffic emissions is far worse right next to high traffic areas.

    - Michael Brauer is a professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health. He says there are certainly environmental and health benefits to building density into a city — especially at transit hubs — but there are also risks people should consider. According to Brauer, the dangerous pollution from vehicles travelling along busy corridors like highways and arterial routes like Cambie Street has a very localized impact. --- According to Brauer, things like lung cancer, increased asthma rates in children, women giving birth to lower birth weight babies, and premature babies are all tied to living close to pollution from traffic. "For many pollutants, things drop off quite rapidly," he said. "Like 150 metres [away from the busy street], which is a block and a half or so."

    - "Mostly we look at some of the gases, nitrogen dioxide which is a gas ... that comes out of the exhaust of the car," said Brauer. "There's also what we call black carbon, so that's soot, these very, very small particles, and we see higher levels of those along these corridors." Beyond what comes out of the tailpipe, Brauer said that brake and tire wear releases metallic particles into the air, which are believed to be bad for health. Finally, according to Brauer, the noise from heavy traffic comes with its own health impacts. "Many people don't realize noise is a risk factor for things like heart attacks," he said. --- Francis Ries, senior project engineer with Metro Vancouver's air quality and climate change division, is involved in monitoring air quality in the region. "Absolutely, exposure to traffic emissions should be folded into planning, I think there's no question about that," said Ries.

    - Both Ries and Brauer say there are large health benefits of building dense, walkable communities. When people get out of their cars, it reduces emissions and keeps people active. But Brauer has some ideas about avoiding the worst of the pollution, when developing new community plans. He says building back from the busy street is key. As long as the walkability is still there, building a block or two away can make a big difference. Brauer also says building upward adds a considerable advantage. "Most of the action going up was in the first two storeys or so," he said, adding that in Hong Kong, where he's looked at the issue, many developments included two floors of retail space.

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    A map shows the level of nitric oxide (parts per billion) detected in a 2010 study in Vancouver. (Michael Brauer)


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    Is Building Along Busy Corridors Unhealthy?
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